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The Sport Matrix: Friday 1 March 2013


Chelsea give green light to supporters' anti-Rafa protests

Chelsea have decided not to confiscate supporters' anti-Rafael Benitez banners brought to tomorrow's Premier League game against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

The club board opted to back manager Benitez, above, following the Spaniard's outspoken criticism on Wednesday night of its decision to give him the title "interim", as well as his first serious broadside back against the supporters who have called for him to be sacked.

In a BBC interview to be broadcast tomorrow, Benitez says he enjoys a strong relationship with Roman Abramovich. "My relationship with the owner is really good," Benitez said. "Every time I talk to Abramovich about football, I enjoy [it]. We talk like normal people. We share a passion for football. He wants to win.

"I have conversations with [technical director] Michael Emenalo every single day. He watches the training sessions, we talk about football. My relationship with the staff, the people at Cobham, is really good, fantastic," he added. "The players are fully behind our ideas." MORE

Foster could make England return

West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster has come out of international retirement after prematurely hanging up his England gloves two years ago. Foster's club manager, Steve Clarke, said yesterday: "He explained to me he wanted to play for his country again." MORE

MacDonald takes charge at Swindon

Swindon have appointed Kevin MacDonald as their new manager. The 52-year-old, who was caretaker manager at Aston Villa in 2010, has been handed the reigns at the League One side after Paolo Di Canio resigned. MacDonald will be in charge of tomorrow's trip to Coventry.

Djokovic cruises into semi-finals

The world No 1 Novak Djokovic maintained his unbeaten start to the year with a comprehensive 6-0, 6-3 victory over Italian Andreas Seppi at the Dubai Championships. The Serb meets world No 7 Juan Martin del Potro in today's semi-finals. MORE

Eriksson: British athletes will shine

The new GB head coach, Peter Eriksson, believes his athletes can impress at the European Indoor Championships, which begin in Gothenburg today. "I think a lot of people will surprise here," said the Swede. "It's very promising." MORE

Flood 'on standby' for Italy contest

Toby Flood acknowledged that he was formally "on standby" to be England's No 10 for the home game against Italy in nine days' time, while Freddie Burns could be given a bench role. Owen Farrell is likely to be saved for the trip to Wales. MORE

Jones to retire and join Wasps' staff

Wales' most capped player, Stephen Jones, will retire from the game at the end of this season. Jones, 35, is to join the coaching staff at his club Wasps. The fly-half has scored more points for Wales than anyone apart from Neil Jenkins. MORE

Australia leads in drugs testing

Australia continues to lead the way in combating drug usage in the sport. Cricket Australia has taken measures since 2007 and last year introduced hair sampling – which is only now being considered in Britain. MORE

Interview: Chris Samba

Congolese defender tells i how isolation from his family made him swap £120,000-a-week wages in Russia for a Premier League relegation dogfight with Queen's Park Rangers. MORE